This following article was written in 1993, but applies just as much today.
The local news is currently full of murders committed by youth involved in drugs, the Air India trial, and the killing of a Phillipino youth by Indo-Canadians. All of these people have religious affiliations.
From time to time it is necessary to take an objective look at what is going on in society. People all over the world are motivated by similar forces acting in their lives. Many people do good in the world, but many people also do bad things in the world. We take the good for granted, and are happy because good activities bring good results for all concerned. The bad activities, however, are decried by all people because of the bad consequences. When bad things are done in the name of religion, or by religious people, then the bad actions are viewed in much worse light, because it is not expected from them. Since society everywhere does not like bad things, it becomes necessary to understand the bad actions, and to try to find the path to a better life.
There have been wars by religious people throughout the ages. They consisted of subjugation, torture, murder, forced conversion, and people penalized by giving ransoms of money and property. In this short discussion I will relate only one or two incidents to make the point clear.
Several years ago there was a cruel murder performed in Vancouver. The television reporter mentioned that there was “bad blood” in the family on religious grounds. A twenty-two year old Muslim man married a twenty-three year old Hindu woman in Bombay, India. The man then brought his wife to live at his parent’s home in Vancouver. The couple had a daughter. For some reason, not yet known, the father-in-law allegedly suffocated his young daughter-in-law, and placed her body in the trunk of a car. This body was discovered later by police. This man is now in jail pending his trial for murder. He was denied bail. His son, and husband of the murdered woman, feels lost and distraught at what happened. He has moved out from his parent’s home, and his baby is in the care of public authorities. This was a wealthy family living in a prestigious area.
What can we say when one hears such news? Since there has been “bad blood” because of religion, it indicates that religion played a part in the lives of these people. And since such a drastic behaviour was perpetrated, it indicates that religious feelings ran high in them. This indicates that the person perpetrating the crime was a religious person. Can a person truly following the teachings of his religion, commit a murder?
Recently, in Mauritius there is a big problem with the illegal drug trade. I was surprised to hear that the biggest of these criminals are some high ranking Muslims (Maulvis) who, because of their religious office, are not subjected to searches as other people. While I was there, one such ‘holy man’ was sentenced to death. About the same time in Singapore there was news of an Indian engineer sentenced to death, also for illegal drug trade.
Many religious wars are going on currently. In the Sudan the minority black Christians and the majority black Muslims are at war. In the Middle East, Jews, Christians and Muslims are fighting. In Ireland the Catholics and Protestants are fighting. In India the Hindu and Muslims are fighting. In Iraq and Iran the Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fighting. What a sorry state of affairs the world is in?
In Canada, many priests have been charged and imprisoned for sexual assault of children. Historically, there have been religious inquisitions, hunting and killing of witches, forced conversions, and murder of saints and prophets. God is most likely very perplexed by observing the actions of ‘religious’ people in the world.
It is important to realize that popular religion is not the same as spirituality. Religions wear the cloak of fanaticism, bigotry, exclusivism and a host of external forms, rites, rituals, conventions and dogmas. The pure inner teachings given by the founders of religions have been eroded untill only the shells remain. And shells are fit for the garbage dump. It is important not to build your spiritual home on the shaky foundation of popular religion. In propagating the shell, the soul is left in darkness, lost, and wandering in the uncharted shores of ignorance. Let all the people weep for the lost treasure of spirituality, and the resulting barbarism and inhumanity which have replaced it.
Can you truly say that religion is the basis for humanity and righteousness? From the observed condition of the world and its people, you cannot convince a rational person that it is. What should we do to free ourselves from the quagmire of religious entanglements? Seek the answer within syourself, in the quiet recesses of your own spiritual heart, humbly ask God to light the darkened path, and show you the straight way to His Kingdom.
Dr. J. Das
Guru Kabir Association of Canada